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Scaled back but moving forward

Temple Beth Or expansion

Rendering of Temple Beth Or with a new 8,500 square-foot social hall complex (L) and updated facade

Despite capital campaign shortfall, Temple Beth Or to expand and renovate – with economies of scale

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Two years ago, the board of Temple Beth Or announced it would set out to raise $4 million: $3.2 million to expand and renovate its building at Rahn and Marshall Roads in Washington Township, and $800,000 to establish an endowment for upkeep and ongoing maintenance.

To date, the campaign has raised $1,658,000 in pledges. But at a congregation meeting on March 8, the board unveiled plans to move forward with a scaled down project that will work within this budget.

Temple Beth Or President Myrna Nelson (L), Construction Committee Chair Ira Segalewitz, and Capital Campaign Co-Chair Marni Flagel

“We’re going to build this for considerably less,” says Beth Or President Myrna Nelson, “using a design-build concept, which really does lock in the price.”

“If not now, when?” says Campaign Co-Chair Marni Flagel, quoting the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Hillel. Flagel, her husband, Richard, and Natalie and Dr. Michael Albert are co-chairs of the campaign.

“We have to do it,” Flagel adds. “It’s time. Next year is our (temple’s) 25th anniversary. So we want this completed in our anniversary year.”

The revised cost for the expansion and renovation, Flagel says, is now $1,350,000; $250,000 of the money raised through the campaign will go toward the endowment.

Nelson says the temple already has more than $1 million in hand from the campaign.

According to Ira Segalewitz, chair of Beth Or’s construction committee, there are three components to the project.

“The first is the improvement of the layout of the school, adding two rooms,” he says. “The second aspect is the social hall, and the third aspect is the enhancement of the outside, with a new facade all the way around.”

The facade work has been significantly scaled back from the 2007 plan.

As part of the interior improvements, Segalewitz says the temple will add an elevator and a rest room to the second floor, to improve accessibility.

Currently, Beth Or uses its second floor for part of its religious school, its youth group, and for meetings.

“We’ve been constrained because we haven’t had a lift, so if seniors can’t use the stairs, that’s not an option,” says Flagel. “Space has been a significant issue, especially on Sundays, when everybody’s here.”

The most noticeable addition to the temple will be a freestanding 8,500-square-foot social hall, with a corridor that connects to the main building.

“It will seat 312,” Segalewitz says, “with a catering kitchen, and it’s going to have all the commercial catering equipment. The caterers we’ve talked to are very pleased with the way we’ve laid it out.”

App Architecture is the design firm for the project; Ferguson Construction is the builder.

“So far, the prices we’ve been able to negotiate have been very nice,” Segalewitz says.

“It’s a good time to build,” Nelson adds, referring to the economic downturn and the eagerness of construction companies to secure work.

Temple Beth Or was founded in 1984 when it began holding services and programs with 35 Jewish families in the building, then owned by Fairhaven Church. Within a few years, Beth Or purchased the building.

The Reform congregation now has 230 membership units and 158 students in its religious school, from preschool through high school — the largest enrollment of the Miami Valley’s Jewish congregations.

Flagel says the capital campaign’s two lead gifts of $250,000 each came from the Levin Family Foundation, and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous at this time.

Washington Township zoning approvals will determine when construction and renovation will start, but Segalewitz hopes to begin in June.

He estimates the project will be complete by the beginning of 2010.

“I’ve got 16 subcommittees set up,” he says. “They really do their job.”

“We’ve got a green committee,” Nelson adds. “We’re going to try to make this as eco-friendly as we can.”

Flagel says the highest priority is to have the school done by the start of classes this fall.

“We do have a wedding and several Bar and Bat Mitzvahs in June,” Nelson says. “We have a wedding in July. But we’re able to work around that. Everybody’s so excited about this, everybody’s willing to do whatever they can to make it work.”

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